Using technology to collaborate is much more nuanced than turning on the tools and letting people “go for it”. It also can’t be too prescriptive. That is why I love the collaboration contract concept. Here is my first experiment with it.
A collaboration contract is an agreement made within a group as to how they will interact and collaborate with each other, particularly when it relates to the use of technology.
It is a similar idea to ‘team norms’ and ‘agile team norms’, a set of agreed rules for how a team will operate, the important part being that everyone agrees.
I recently set up a new intranet content publisher group: Intranet Power Users. It is a new group, small, cross-functional, and one which does not directly report to me. The group has extra permissions to create content, in exchange for acting as support for our editor community. Because the group has a level or responsibility to intranet editors, and each other, it felt important that we have a mechanism to agree how we would work.
Enter, the collaboration contract.
Rather than go in cold, I wanted to prepare an agenda for discussion to give structure to the conversation. That meant that we could move on from a topic if we were labouring on it, or decide to have another meeting if we needed more time to discuss.
This was my agenda:
- Collaboration contract – what is it
- Communication and conversation
I set up a 1 hour meeting with 6 Power Users. About 45 minutes of the meeting time was dedicated to the contract discussion.
After taking the group through an explanation of the collaboration contract and it’s purpose, we stepped through each of the agenda items.
It was important to me that the group did see this as an exercise where I dictated the terms and they simply agreed. To avoid this I put forward each agenda item and put it out to the group to suggest how we would approach it.
I made an effort to make sure that as we came to decision points that everyone was agreed and that everyone had the opportunity to speak. That way nobody would come away feeling like they had not been appropriately included.
The discussion was very positive and moved quite quickly. We spent the most time discussing Accountability and Task. We needed tangible methods to hold each other accountable to our contract, and a process by which we would manage sharing the workload.
Our first cut at the collaboration contract for intranet power users is as follows:
- Yammer is the primary sharing space
- Use links rather than attachments
- Training information goes on the intranet
- Meeting notes in OneNote
- Support requests are managed via ServiceNow
- Meeting actions in OneNote
- Issues are shared using Yammer
- Start after 3 minutes, no waiting
- No recordings – notes will be taken and shared
- Use video in meetings
- If emergencies happen excuse yourself and leave
- Contract to be reviewed each meeting
- Committed to being present in the meeting
Communication and conversation
- Digital Workplace Manager to share tips, advice, training
- Voice and face-to-face is encouraged when helping each other
- Anything we learn should be shared in Yammer
- We agree to fulfill the responsibilities of the role
- We agree to hold each other to account
- We help each other and speak out if we need help
- No need to say sorry, discuss and move on
I was really pleased with what we were able to discuss and agree to in less than one hour. On reflection I think there were a number of factors in our favour:
- The group was well engaged before-hand
- Participant is primarily opt-in (avoiding volun-told)
- It is a small group
- The group is newly formed – no previous hang-ups
- Mostly long-termers with organisational and intranet experience